Brazil’s Deforestation Worries Scientists

 Brazil's Deforestation 
  Worries Scientists

Brazilian scientists
are discussing ways to stop the destruction
of Brazil’s Amazon rainforest. One fifth of the area has already
been chopped down. And the clearing continues to make room
for soybean and cattle. According to a scientist, the Amazon is
an enormous laboratory that urgently needs a political project.
by: Keite
Camacho

A warning went out from the 56th Annual Meeting of the SBPC (Sociedade Brasileira
para o Progresso da Ciência—Brazilian Society for the Progress
of Science): each year 25,000 square kilometers or 6 million acres of the
Amazon rainforest is being destroyed. So far, one-fifth of the world’s biggest
tropical forest has already been destroyed.

The SBPC annual meeting
is taking place this week in the state of Mato Grosso.

Ennio Candotti, the president
of the SBPC, declared that he is concerned about the ability of science to
deal with environmental preservation and end deforestation. The Amazon forest
is being chopped down to make room for soybeans and cattle, he said.

"Experts from the
Embrapa (Empresa Brasileira de Pesquisa Agropecuária—Brazilian
Farm Research Corporation) say that soybean crops and cattle raising should
be confined to areas already cleared. Their studies show that it is possible
to double grain and animal production without cutting down any more trees.
Cattle, for example, can be raised in smaller areas using modern technology,"
declared the SBPC president.

Candotti says that the
Amazon rainforest is an enormous scientific laboratory that urgently needs
a political project. "There are other countries that invest more in the
Amazon than Brazil. And we must combat deforestation by finding out who is
the mastermind behind the destruction. We have a thousand scientist in the
region. We need ten thousand," he said.

A Satellite for the
Amazon

Brush and forest fires
in the Amazon will be monitored this year in areas of up to six square kilometers
by a satellite launched by Brazil last October in China. This information
was provided by the Minister of Science and Technology, Eduardo Campos, during
an interview for the National Radio of Amazônia.

The Minister assured that,
when a modification is detected in a specific area of the forest, be it a
hot spot or deforestation, the satellite will immediately transmit the data
to the Ibama (Instituto Brasileiro do Meio Ambiente e dos Recursos Naturais
RenováveisBrazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable
Natural Resources), through the Inpe (Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais—National
Institute of Space Research).

Campos also informed that
the CBA (Centro de Biotecnologia da Amazônia—Amazônia Biotechnology
Center), inaugurated in December, 2002, "will receive duly contracted
and operational staff in the next 60 days."

Regarding the Alcântara
Satellite Launching Base, in the state of Maranhão, he said that everything
is programmed for the next launch to occur in July, 2006. "Brazil will
be among the 10 countries in the world that have advanced space programs,"
he guaranteed.

Digital inclusion was
another item broached by the Minister, who underscored the federal government’s
effort to get computer manufacturers to reduce the price of computers.

Completing the picture,
according to Campos, are "the gradual use of free software," special
credit lines to enable teachers in the interior to purchase computers, and
the installation of telecenters, equipped with broadband internet access,
in the most remote regions of the Amazon and the Northeast.

Space Program

The new president of the
Brazilian Space Agency, Maurício Guadenzi, a civil engineer, is already
involved in the reactivation of the Alcântara Launching Base, according
to Campos, in order to meet the end-of-the-year 2006 deadline set by President
Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

Brazil’s space program
is ongoing, he said. As an example, he cited activities related to climate
and weather. "Satellites play a direct role, not always perceived, in
the lives of citizens, when they favor giving support to agribusiness and
family farming and reducing crop insurance, as well as their importance to
learning at a distance, medicine, and national security."

Campos also commented
that over 150 institutes from all over the world are interested in buying
from China and Brazil images taken by the satellite launched in October. And
he guaranteed that the images of the Amazon will be for domestic use.


Keite Camacho works for Agência Brasil (AB), the official press agency
of the Brazilian government. Comments are welcome at lia@radiobras.gov.br.

Translated
from the Portuguese by Allen Bennett.

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